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20200129-log-chap logan girls natalie blankenship

Logan High School’s Natalie Blankenship (1) drives in for two points in the Lady Cats’ 47-44 loss to Chapmanville on Thursday, Jan. 23, 2020 at Logan.

In a month’s time, the Logan High School girls’ basketball team, and other squads from around the state, are hoping they will get the go-ahead to begin practices for the upcoming and delayed 2021 roundball campaign.

Basketball season, and the winter sports seasons, are set to begin on March 3.

The delay was set in motion at the request of West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, reportedly due to COVID-19 concerns.

Logan coach Kevin Gertz said he hopes his girls will be able to begin practices On Feb. 14 as directed by Gov. Justice.

“I don’t like the way they have set it up,” Gertz said. “There has been a proposal by the SSAC but it will not be voted on by the governor or the legislature until this week. It’s possible that basketball practices can start February 8 and the first girls’ game could be March 1 and the first boys’ game could be March 5. It’s possible. I assume a lot of this will depend on the (virus threat) map but who knows if the map will be any different in three weeks for anyone to really start practice, so I don’t know.”

The winter and spring sports, however, would overlap.

The baseball/softball seasons are set to begin in late March or in early April.

“The proposal is to try to get both sports in and overlap basketball and baseball somewhat,” said Gertz, also the Logan baseball coach. “If that happens it will be very tough. I would hope basketball coaches and spring sports coaches can work together.”

Gertz said the boys’ and girls’ state basketball tournaments would be pushed back to mid-April. Both are set to be played at the Charleston Coliseum.

“The state tournament would be backed up until mid-April,” Gertz said. “I’m concerned because I coach two sports both boys and girls. Everybody hopes to go to the state tournament. If we are fully healthy and if we don’t lose anybody to grades or softball I fully expect us to be playing into the regionals and into the state tourney. That’s what we have aspirations to do.”

Gertz said he’s very disappointed in Justice, who has received all kinds of criticism, not only since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, but in the recent weeks since the now infamous viral video surfaced.

In the leaked video, which was released on social media, hundreds of guests were seen partying at Justice’s New Year’s Eve gala at the Greenbrier Resort.

The video outraged many across the state across all political and party lines.

To most, it’s quite simple.

If people can party and have public gatherings, then high school athletes should be allowed to practice and play games, even if crowds are limited, wearing masks and socially distanced.

At the Greenbrier Resort party, none of that was observed.

“I’m very disappointed in our governor,” Gertz said. “But I understand that he’s got a tremendous headache with this pandemic. Sports is not the most important thing in the world but normalcy for these kids is. Surrounding states can all play but we can’t. We have to follow all of these mandates but they can have New Year’s Eve parties at his resort. If he can make money at it it’s OK but it’s not OK.”

With surrounding states such as Kentucky and Ohio already tipping off the basketball seasons the danger of West Virginia athletes leaving the Mountain State is there.

“This is going to happen all over the state,” Gertz said. “Kids are going to transfer out and it’s not right. The pandemic is no better in Kentucky, Virginia, Ohio or Pennsylvania than it is here. We are not the only place in the world that has this. If it can be done there in other states it can be done here. I’m glad that they are talking about starting on February 8 but if you can start school in January and have kids in the classroom and have PE classes then why in the world can’t you practice basketball or cheerleading? There’s more kids in the classrooms than there are on these teams. It doesn’t make any sense to me. The day the kids come back to school they ought to be able to participate.”

Logan’s revised schedule (its second) is still being worked out.

The Lady Cats look to improve greatly on last year’s 10-15 showing.

Logan ending up falling 46-44 loss to Lincoln County in the Class AA Region 4 Section 2 championship game, then were ousted 58-31 at Winfield in the regional co-final.

Logan is back in the Class AAA ranks this year as the WVSSAC moves into the first year of a two-year pilot program which will spread out all the schools over four classes for the first time ever.

The Lady Cats were ranked No. 5 in the state in one Class AAA preseason poll.

Gertz said he likes the idea of having four classes but scoffs at the notion of Logan being moved up.

The SSAC used a complicated system of determining its realignment criteria. In the past, it was solely based on student enrollment numbers.

“I do like the four-class system but I don’t like how it was set up,” Gertz said. “I don’t like being penalized for your school being in the county seat. That’s ridiculous. Chapmanville now has a couple more hundred (students) than us or close to it but they are in a classification behind us? That makes no sense. I think they all needed to be split up, don’t get me wrong. We need to have four classes in all sports but it ought to be based on your enrollment and that’s it. That’s the way that it’s always been.”

Logan will join a new Class AAA sectional with Scott, Lincoln County, Wayne and and Huntington St. Joe, a former Single-A state powerhouse in girls’ basketball, which is jumping up two classes.

St. Joe sported a 22-1 record in 2020 but did not get to finish the season as the girls’ state basketball tournament was suspended due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Logan has a veteran team coming back, led by Peyton Ilderton, a 5-foot-6 junior guard and the team’s top scorer. She had a big year last season and was named First-Team All-Cardinal Conference. Ilderton averaged 21.2 points per game and was fourth in the league in scoring.

Jill Tothe, a 5-7 guard, and Raegan Quick, a 5-6 post player, are Logan’s two returning seniors.

Emma Elkins, a 5-7 junior forward, is another returning starter.

Sophomore point guard Natalie Blankenship (4-11) also comes back. She started as a frosh last season.

Transfer guard Abbie Myers, who came from Chapmanville, also figures into the Lady Cats’ plans.

If the season is allowed to begin, it could be a chaotic one, just as the fall football season was, due to the virus threat map.

“What’s sad is that it’s going to have to be rush rush because when that color code comes out and your opponents are out most of our games are Monday and Thursday,” Gertz said. “So bam, we’ll have to go really quick to try to find a team to play on that Monday. If your Thursday game is canceled you’ve got a few days. If you find someone to play on Monday you’ve practiced for someone else.”

Paul Adkins is the Sports Editor of the Logan Banner. Follow him on Twitter at @PAdkinsBanner or email him at padkins@hdmediallc.com